Tag Archives: outback

Not the Boss’s Wife…Friday Fictioneers.

“This place ain’t right. There’s blood on the stone. Ma always said: `stone house, cold heart.”

“Watta ya mean, luv? She’s the best property in the district. The whippersnappers will love it when they come along… swimming and fishing in the creek. Our El Dorado.”

“I sense their starving spirits. Those broken shearers. The native people. Their blood’s still etched in the stone.”

“You’ve got a bleeding heart, Mary. It’s survival of the fittest. We’re gunna spin the golden fleece. Tame the great outback. ”

Charlotte refused to step inside and gave Charlie back his ring. She couldn’t become the Boss’s Wife.

Weekend Coffee Share 20th August, 2018.

Welcome to Another Coffee Share!

How are you? How was your week? My manners have improved this week, as I often launch into an animated diatribe about my week, without even thinking of you. While you could interpret that as “rude”, I’ll excuse myself by saying that I’m excited to catch up with you and I thought you might be interested in a few snapshots of Australian life. That’s one of the things I really love about our Weekend Coffee Share is gaining a more personal insight into what it’s life to live in an other country.

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Bushfire Viewed from Ettalong Beach, NSW.

After seeing some spectacular photos of the fires ravaging California and hearing horror stories of mass destruction and heartbreak, we had our own local  bush fire this week over at Killcare, North of Sydney and about a 15 minutes drive from here. I woke up one morning and feel a thick cloak of smoke immediately wrap around me, and there was a definite tightness and constriction in my lungs. I have about 55% lung capacity. So, the panic buttons went off and I was wondering whether I’d need to get out. However, the wind must’ve changed because the smoke dissipated and by afternoon, I actually ventured to our local beach where I could photograph the towering plume of smoke without suffocating.

Saturday, saw a different kind of fire. Our kids were attending District Scout Camp at this very remote camp site at Sugree Bag Creek. Different scout troops were attending and each had its own camp fire blazing by the time we’d turned up late afternoon after our daughter’s dancing. These fires don’t just happen and there’s quite a lot of science involved. I saw our scout leader clearing away the grass with a shovel, and I’m not sure what else was involved but when my husband picked the kids up the next day, I was told that the fires didn’t go out overnight and the local bush wasn’t set alight. People are so quick to criticise and blame teenagers. Yet, here we had at least 50 or so kids with fires, bush and no problems.

My husband and I decided to turn the drive into more of an experience, which is why I’d come along. Of course, only one parent was required to do the actual driving. It was about a 90 minutes drive to the camp site and while you think of the outback in terms of remote in an  Australian sense, once you leave the road less travelled and continue onto the roads rarely travelled, it doesn’t take long for you to either experience that sense of getting away from it all or feeling isolated and I little bit vulnerable. There’s “nothing there”. However, ideally you don’t go camping in the supermarket car park and you actually do experience all that’s entailed with getting away from it all and you find out what you’re made of. You find interest in nature and the simple life instead of being glued to electronic, TV or having your nose in a book. This is living.

This lecture is as much for myself, I should point out. I could easily have read a book for much of the drive instead of engaging in conversation or looking out the window. As we drove off the main road and kept driving and driving onto what was by now more like a driveway or a cattle path, I noticed a rising sense of impatience…”Are we there yet?” I felt like we’d almost driving off the edge of the earth and I should’ve been embracing it. Enjoying the get away. Appreciating the benefits of switching off instead of being constantly switched on and lit up like a Christmas tree. By the time we reached Spencer, it was like “there’s nothing here”. I was really hanging out for some coffee and cake by then too. It was 5.00pm and everything was shut. Well, that was except the “Dunkirk Hotel”…an open air pub with a wooden sign suspended over a picnic table.

This coming Thursday, my parents will be celebrating their 50th Wedding Anniversary and all sorts are coming out of the woodwork and turning up for the festivities. My Dad is the only one making a speech, and I’ve supplied him with photos so there’s been no role for myself in all of this, which perhaps could be a good thing. However, that hasn’t stopped me from thinking about their big day and what it was all about. I just don’t have much to go on, because I wasn’t there which isn’t always a given but that’s how it was for us. Obviously, many of the people who were there on the day are no longer with us or have drifted beyond their orbit. One of the interesting snippets from my parents’ wedding was that my grandfather was a pastor and so he had another minister there at the start so he could walk my mother down the aisle and conduct the service. My Dad’s family was Catholic and Mum and her family were Lutheran and they got married in a Lutheran Church. That meant Dad’s family needed to get dispensation from the priest to attend. I don’t even know what that is, but it sounds serious. Mum’s wedding car also broke down on the way to the Church. The reception was held at my grandparents’ home in Lindfield.

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Anyway, while I was pottering around with my research, I found a photo of my mum taken at a school reunion back in the 80s and found her year had set up its own web site, which included pdfs of the school newsletter. I was particularly interested in the Principal’s reports. One was headed “the casual cult” and spoke out about the horrors of casual dress, manners and the “bodgie pack”. More time research required. Also, there were quite a few references to the girls outperforming the boys academically, which I hadn’t anticipated from that era. I have sensed that the needs of boys are being swept under the radar, which is all well and good if you only have daughters and don’t believe in some form of equity.

I’ve also been making considerable progress researching not only my grandmother’s career as a concert pianist, which I’ve mentioned before. She worked as a music critic in the 1950s for the Daily Telegraph and despite so many of the old newspapers being uploaded onto Trove, the Daily Telegraph has only just been uploaded and I’m finally able to read her reviews without trudging into the State Library viewing them on the reel to reel and paying a fortune to print them out. I’m now in the process of converting them to text and pasting them chronologically into a word document. Sounds all well and good but why did she have to attend so many concerts and be so prolific? I know. I’d be complaining if there was only a handful of words but it’s going to take some time to get this under my belt. 1950 alone is currently standing at 30,000 words and I’m not done yet. I should also point out that she had four children under ten at the time, although her mother lived with her and she also had home help. Nevertheless, she was an extraordinary woman.

Book

By the way, I am still making my way through Raphaelle Giordano’s: Your Second Life Begins When You Realize You Only Have One. This supposed novel features a whole lot of steps towards finding greater satisfaction and fulfillment in your life. This week, I focused on: “Throw out ten things”. That was all well and good. However, it didn’t bargain on us stopping at a roadside sign advertising “FREE” in huge red painted letters. We had no idea what was free when we pulled over. However, being out in the country, we expected something along the lines of oranges or horse manure. However, much to our delight, there were bags and bags of good books, which somehow found their way into the boot of our car. Although common sense tells you not to bring bags of books into your house when you’ve just downloaded your ten items, the book didn’t say you couldn’t. So, now I’m clearing more space and my husband will no longer be sleeping on the train. He has a lot of reading to do.

Meanwhile, you might enjoy reading my review on the book so far and my progress Here.

Books

So much more creating more space…there’s an avalanche of books.

Lastly, I have come across a blog share, which you might like to take part in. This was my first week over at Thursday Doors hosted by  Norm 2.0. . Here’s my contribution.

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Thursday Doors…St John’s Cathedral, Parramatta, Sydney.

Well, that’s me done for another week. It’s been great catching up and I look forward to catching up on your news.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

Off On A Saturday Drive…

Welcome to being a scout parent. Your kid experiences the magic of the great outdoors, while you have the pleasure of being stuck in the car for a long drive. Well, I tell a fib because I wasn’t exactly stuck in the car, and I wasn’t driving either. Geoff was driving, and once we’d dropped off our charge, we made numerous photography stops and took full advantage of the great outdoors. Well, perhaps not full advantage because we didn’t exactly go for an extended hike, but I did walk our daughter down to the registration tent.

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This weekend, was District Scout Camp and it was held in the middle of nowhere,  and not even near the great outback. It was held in the camping grounds at Sugaree Creek and the only signs of civilization were numerous cow pats, no cows and a cluster of tents with camp fires going. Due to its lack of proximity to any landmarks, there is no point providing a map.

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Of course, there’s something naturally mesmerizing about being around a camp fire. Yet, the magic doesn’t just happen and there’s a lot of careful skill and preparation which goes into building a good one too. After having a local bush fire this week, it was good to hear that the camp fires survived the night and remained under control. Of couorse, we expect no less from our scouts.

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There’s something soulful about a tree skeleton silhouetted by a cloudy blue sky.

Of course, this is why you go camping and why we love our kids being involved with Scouts. It’s important to commune with nature, sleep under the stars and especially get away from technology, phones and gadgets and even talk face-to-face. Indeed, as much as I was wondering if we were ever going to get there, I know there’s much to enjoy about going on a long drive seemingly surrounded by nothingness and needing to find those points of interest. I guess this also includes not looking at my phone or reading a book either. The latter becomes very tempting.

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After leaving camp, we drove to Spencer. Don’t really know what it’s main claim to fame is, but there is a caravan park and it would be a great place to get away from it all, especially on a boat.

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It was after 5.00pm by the time we reached Spencer and the sun was setting and the place was shut. All except a makeshift pub…The Dunkirk Hotel, which was just this sign and a picnic table under the tree.

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Mangrove Creek photographed from Spencer.

If you are interested in checking out more around the Sugee Bag Creek area, I recommend reading Return to Sugree Bag Creek

Have you ever been involved with Scouts or Guides and have any camp memories? I’d love to hear from you!

xx Rowena

The Lean, Mean Herding King

Welcome back to the Royal Sydney Easter Show. The family headed off there yesterday where we were able to see this very smart Border Collie rounding up the sheep, responding to hand signals. Unlike the dog, I didn’t pick up everything the trainer said. However, he clearly spoke up how he is training the dog to “use his brain” and he mentioned something about building up and I guess using the dog’s natural instincts. That makes a lot of sense.

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That’s one clever dog!

When I was at school and we’d be running around the oval, there was a Border Collie, which we nicknamed “Flash” who used to run with us. He was very lean like the dog I’ve photographed here. The coat also doesn’t look as fluffy as Bilbo’s coat and indeed, the show dog we met.

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The Sheep.

I can certainly attest to the Border Collie’s herding instincts. When Bilbo thinks it’s dinner time, he either rounds up Geoff or I to remind Miss to feed him. He doesn’t waste his energy going direct to her. He is a true mirror how how things operate around here…right down to sitting next to my chair when I’m eating toast. He knows I don’t eat my crusts. Smart dog. Or, as Geoff puts it: “You’ve trained him well.”

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Border Collie…the “show” variety.

As anybody who has ever had a Border Collie can attest, when a Border Collie doesn’t have any sheep to chase, they will always find an alternative…their sheep substitute. While their fixation with chasing tennis balls can be as irritating as fingernails scraping down a chalkboard, it’s nothing compared to being herded up yourself.

I made the huge mistake of walking the dogs every morning after dropping the kids at school. When the kids changed schools this year, the routine changed but their expectations haven’t.

Being rounded up by one Border Collie is hard enough but two is torture. Fortunately, Lady is only half Border Collie and she’s a lot more mellow but those big brown eyes of hers are hard to resist.

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Obsessed…Bilbo appropriating another dog’s ball at the beach.

The other query I have about the Border Collie’s rounding up abilities, is why can’t they get the kids tidying up their rooms? Why can’t they get the kids to take them for a walk? Why can’t their herding abilities be put to good use instead of rounding me up, chasing tennis balls and helping themselves to food which is temporarily left unattended.

Perhaps, I’ve just been using the wrong hand signals!

xx Rowena

By the way, the Royal Sydney Easter Show is held out at Olympic Park, the site of the Sydney 2000 Olympics. While these photos look like they were taken in the outback, this is urban Sydney.

Fetching Bilbos Ball

Our ball desperado. Finally some assistance. Miss puts Bilbo out of his misery!

When Dogs Fly…

While life as a backyard dog can get a bit boring, Bilbo and Lady are thanking their lucky stars that they’re not outback dogs living along the flooded Daly River in Australia’s Northern Territory.

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Not only are they battling raging flood waters, they’re also contending with crocodiles patrolling the swollen floodwaters.

http://www.ntnews.com.au/news/northern-territory/breaking-your-heart–dogs-rescued-from-floods/news-story/ba0eafa3b143e468bda985a0451a2269

The latest news is that 60 animals including dogs have been airlifted in a crocodile cage to safety. I saw footage on TV and believe me, I’d be terrified and I’m not even scared of heights. You can click on the film footage in the story above.

So, if you had to conduct a Dog Poll, I don’t know whether our canine companions would rate flying in a helicopter better or worse than getting their paws wet. However, with dog-eating crocodiles cruising the floodwaters, there would be no debate. All paws would vote for evacuation.

For the rescued animals, the helicopter ride took just 10 minutes and they were taken to temporary kennels at Five Mile. Half a tonne of dog food was also airlifted in to ensure all remaining animals have enough feed while the town is evacuated.

I’ve never really considered what happens to pets during a State of Emergency. However, it’s comforting to hear that pets are being cared for so compassionately. Knowing that their pets are safe must be such a comfort when locals could well have lost all but the shirt on their back.

Personally, I suspect these outback dogs are made of tougher stuff than ours. I don’t know how our dogs would cope with such contingencies.

Fetching Bilbos Ball

Finally some assistance. Miss puts Bilbo out of his misery!

While Lady is a bit more daring, Bilbo’s even refused to dip his precious paws in the water to rescue his much loved tennis ball as it drifted downstream. There was no doubt he was in anguish, questioning would he or wouldn’t he…However, he ultimately succumbed to his fear and was mighty lucky to fetch his ball later at low tide.

Obviously, you’ll find no hero there!

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A rather pampered Lady!

Lady is marginally more audacious but generally prefers a pampered existence…sleeping on her quilt and even on the sofa as long as she doesn’t get sprung. Even though she comes from a farm and is actually registered as a Working Dog, she wouldn’t know work if she tripped over it. After all, she’s a lady! She might not be quite royalty but don’t tell her that! She tells the world she has blue blood!

We pray for all those affected by flood, bush fires and tornadoes around the world. While the plight of animals being flown to safety makes for an interesting story, I don’t for a moment forget the heartache and devastation experienced by people and animals. I hope you’re okay.

Thinking about rescuing pets, I’ve had to save Bilbo a couple of times when he’s fallen in the swimming pool and couldn’t get out. He also tried to climb on board Mister’s kayak and up-ended the lot and they both ended up in the water. The dog became quite distressed and tried pulling him under. I ended up picking Bilbo up in my kayak. Fortunately. it was shallow water.

Lady was also rescued from the main road after hunting rabbits and nearly being hit by a bus. I received a phone call from the local vet to come and pick her up. That was quite a relief because she just vanished on our walk and being such a black dog, she blends in with the road, which obvious dangers.

Have you ever had to rescue your pet? Do tell!

xx Rowena

 

 

 

 

 

 

Taking the Road Most Travelled… the Pacific Highway.

Being beyond the flow, I usually take the road less travelled. However, when January comes round each year, our family is usually on the road most travelled…the Pacific Highway.  Just like birds fly south for the Northern Winter, we head North for the Australian summer chasing the sun and often the surf.

The long summer holidays can be a bit difficult for us with the kids and so Geoff usually takes time off work and we go to visit family near Byron Bay, on the Gold Coast and onto Brisbane and Ipswich.

Before I push the pedal to the metal and get started on a series of holiday snapshots, here’s a bit of road-building history.

Location Pacific Hwy.svg

see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pacific_Highway_%28Australia%29

The Pacific Highway is 960 kilometres long and connects Sydney and Brisbane and was completed in 1958. While the Pacific Highway has evolved from what seems like a one-lane goat track and now has stretches of freeway and numerous by-passes, there are still plenty of cracks in the bitumen. You see, the Pacific Highway might lead to paradise but it certainly isn’t the Yellow Brick Road. It still has hundreds of kilometres of single-lane road and it has a dreadful accident record.

Yet, the Pacific Highway is also a bit exciting. It has always meant holidays for me.

My earliest memories of the Pacific Highway were driving up to Newcastle in the old Morris Minor to visit my grandparents. I remember waiting and waiting and waiting as traffic stopped while they blasted through the Sydney Sandstone to build the toll road. I later remember stopping to pay the toll just North of Hornsby. Subsequent trips in the HR Holden were less eventful although my brother and I held some fierce battles in the back seat. This was long before the days of in-car DVD players or electronic games. We didn’t even have air-conditioning.  I’m not sure if we even had a radio but Dad used to sing We’re off to See the Wizard from the Wizard of Oz, Oh What a Beautiful Morning from Oklahoma and the  Jamaican Farewell. I think all dads have their quirks.

Anyway, perhaps my favourite holiday of all time was when I drove solo from Sydney as far North as Maroochydore in my not so stylish Mitsubishi Colt… my first car. It took me at least a week to reach Brisbane as I stayed in Newcastle, Port Macquarie and Byron Bay.  I then stayed with my grandparents in Ipswich and visited friends in Maroochydore. I particularly loved staying at the Youth Hostel in Byron Bay and it was still in the day when Kombis with surfboards on top were still lined up around the beach and Byron Bay was still a hippy paradise. I made a new friend and we had our Thelma and Louise experience heading out to Nimbin and visiting my favourite and very inspirational primary school teacher. He showed us round the local Steiner school and I still remember all the butterflies out there. It was a magical place and I wasn’t quite the same when I went back to work in the Sydney CBD in my poky little office with no windows.

That was the life of a single Rowena…poet, writer, photographer and dreamer.

My husband has his own memories of travelling along the great Pacific Highway…especially in his first car the legendary Datsun 120Y. The 120Y might have been a fairly ordinary, small car at the budget end of the market but in our household it’s legendary. Geoff took the 120Y on an outback adventure covering 4500 KM in just two weeks and even made it out to Birdsville and back. That is truly in the outback or as we Aussies like to put it “out the back of whoop whoop”.

Anyway, Geoff was driving up North on the Pacific Highway in the legendary 120Y. He’d reached Macksville, which is just over halfway to Byron Bay, when he was turning a corner and felt the back end of the car steering all by itself. For those of you like me who aren’t mechanically minded, this was serious. Geoff pulled over and discovered that the wheel was only attached by one wheel nut, instead of four and was about to fall off. He was lucky not to have a serious accident. He had had the tyres replaced before the trip and the mechanic hadn’t tightened the wheel nuts properly.

Geoff and I in the Sprite.

Geoff and I in the Sprite.

My first trip up North with Geoff in the Austin-Healy Sprite was also memorable. Geoff was taking me up to meet his Mum for the first time. This isn’t so much a story of the Pacific Highway as we were diverted due to flood waters at the end of the freeway and had to take the New England Highway. We were driving over the Tenterfield Ranges after dark through pouring rain when the car kept getting caught in potholes ripping the exhaust pipe off. Reapplying the exhaust pipe in the dark and in the rain was great fun especially as it was very easy to get burnt. I remember a lot of stop start driving waiting for the car to cool down and plenty of frustration. I also remember wearing a raincoat in the car. For some strange reason, historic British cars aren’t that watertight. While I was discussing the romance or otherwise of our first long trip together in the Sprite, Geoff implied that I’d travelled in relative comfort. The previous trip up North, he had worn his wet weather motorbike gear because he didn’t actually own a roof for the Sprite. This wasn’t as bad as it sounds because you didn’t get wet driving over 80 KPH but there are a lot of 60 zones between here and Byron Bay.

There’s obviously a lot they don’t tell about these cute little sports’ cars.

Our trips up North have certainly changed since we had the kids. When they were babies, we seemed to stop for eternity breastfeeding at McDonalds, which was great for nappy changing as well. As the kids have grown bigger, there’s the attraction of the McDonalds playgrounds. We now try to break things up a bit and eat packed sandwiches or stop at some local food spots. We are very fond of a bakery in Bulladelah. They have the best cinnamon buns I’ve ever tasted.

These days, even I am starting to dream of an A to B drive straight to Byron Bay. Actually, I’d just like to click my fingers and magically be there. After all, it’s a ten hour drive from the Central Coast to Byron Bay and about 13 hours to Brisbane. That’s a lot of games of I Spy.

Stay tuned for a series of postcards from our trip starting out with a Postcard from Coffs Harbour.

Do you have any stories about travelling along the Pacific Highway or another road trip?